Episode 056 | Panel Discussion: How is the Cloud Impacting UX and Designers

This 56th episode, AC and CJ interview some designers and UX implementers to talk about how Office 365 and the cloud are impacting the their day to day lives.

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[0:00] Andrew: This is the Microsoft Cloud show, episode 56. Today we're gonna talk to a couple of user interface and design people about their experience on working in the Cloud, specifically Office 365. Recorded live, November 12th, 2014.

Welcome to the Microsoft Cloud Show, the only place to stay up-to-date on everything going on in the Microsoft Cloud world including Windows Azure, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, Link, and related technologies. Just the information, no marketing, no B.S.  I'm Andrew Connell.

[0:30] Chris: And I'm Chris Johnson.

[0:32] Andrew:And we're just two dudes telling you how we see it.

I'm here today with four other people with me that are more in the design and user experience space on the web stuff which is more like, we're gonna talk about Office 365, because lot of this is all SharePoint related we are gonna be most the branding UX customizations come out of the SharePoint space, so it is gonna be a little bit on the SharePoint Cloud focused, but before we dive into that I do wanna kinda take a second here and talk a little bit about some stuff we did last week. In our previous episode, episode 55, that came out on the November 11th 2014, at the beginning of the show, aside from the funny stuff that if anybody hasn't heard it, you ought to go take a listen to it at least for the first five minutes, where CJ and I get a hold of some helium balloons after a party was wrapped up at the restaurant in Bellevue, Washington. And we decided to kinda go a little crazy. The funny part was is that we originally were going to have that get published on Jeremy Thake's Office 365 Developers podcast and about half way through our little having fun time, we all kinda decided that there is no way that this could come from Microsoft brand. So instead we just took it throw it into our show at the very beginning, but another thing from that show us that I've mentioned that we talked to three different groups of people, Developers, IT Pros and UX people, about how the Cloud is affecting their data day life. The listener of the show would pick up that we only end up replaying it for two people, the Developer and IT pro audience. The reason for that is because my microphone completely corrupted the 1070 or 80 meg, 20+ minute file of our discussion of the panel of the four people that I have collected today on Skype and we lost the entire discussion which was very disappointing because we had a good discussion. So what we're doing today, we're making a whole episode out of it today, that's coming out as episode 56. This will be nice because I did feel like we were a little bit timeboxed last week, we were trying to keep it short, so the episode didn't get super long, but today because we're dedicating it just for this one topic, we've got a lot more stuff that we can kinda go into and little bit more extend. So with that let me introduce who we have here today. Kathy, why don't you go and introduce yourself? Ladies first. 

[2:51] Cathy: Sure thing. My name’s Cathy Dew, I'm a SharePoint MVP, focused on user experiences design based out of Huntsville, Alabama.

[2:59] Andrew: Thanks Cathy. How about you Jasper? Wanna go ahead and introduce yourself?

[3:02] Jasper: Yeah sure. Hi, I'm Jasper. I'm Office 365 MVP from Amsterdam, Netherlands. I'm very humbled to be in this company because I'm not the branding master, like couple of other people out here, but I do deal with a lot of UX questions from customers, so I think I have some valuable input out.

[3:17] Andrew: I hope so too, otherwise we're gonna throw you out the ship. I'm just kidding, I'm just kidding. Cool. Marc, how about you?

[3:23] Marc: I'm Marc Anderson, I'm in Boston, Mass, that's in United States of America. Jasper's our foreign representative. I wouldn't call myself a brander either but I do spend a lot of time thinking about UX and I implement brands a lot for clients, so that's probably why I'm here.

[3:39] Andrew: Cool. And Randy, how about you? Just down the road from me.

[3:42] Randy: Yes, down in the heat of Orlando. So I'm Randy Drisgill, I'm a SharePoint server MVP as well. I'm focused on UI UX in SharePoint and I lead the Dev in UX team for SharePoint at Rackspace.

[3:57] Andrew: Very cool. So I guess, a panel that we have is... would it be fair to say that we have two, I guess in the most traditional sense of the word, two web designers/graphic designers in Randy and Cathy? And then with Marc and Jasper we implement brands, we do customization, but not so much on the design side. Is that fair to say everybody?

[4:18] Jasper: Yeah.

[4:18] Cathy: I think so.

[4:19] Marc: Right.

[4:19] Andrew: Ok, then you've got me which is just the developer that basically makes it hell for all four of you. What we wanna talk about today is extension of what we've talked about last week, which was a discussion on how is this whole move to the Cloud or Cloud life, how is it affecting each one of you in the data day job? So last week we've talked to the Developers and we talked to IT Pros and while it's affecting each one of us, each one of these different audience or disciplines in different ways, it seems like one of the most contentious places that there've been a lot of challenges has been around this space, around the design side and around the UX side. So I know earlier this year Marc and I've actually had a conversation about it on previous episode of the show. I guess this kinda works out in Marc's favor too, because while he was a guest on the previous show, he's actually getting another guest entree on this show, so by far just ticking it up a little bit more, raising the bar for the most frequent guest in the second slot. We've talked about it little bit this year here about, you know, what is... the challenges that we're facing because we have a lotta things happened at the beginning of the 2014, or at early part of 2014, where Microsoft was making changes to Office 365 primarily around the CSS and around Master page, that was really messing up a lotta people and there's been a lot of learning on both sides. So let me...I'm gonna pitch it to Cathy to start up with and why don't you kinda explain what we're talking about when I say like there's been some challenges or what things people are facing today in this space.

[5:54] Cathy: Yeah, I think for me and from my perspective, one of the things that's been a real challenge with is the real fast paced movement that Microsoft is doing with Office 365 and over the years on all the On-premises versions of SharePoint, it's always been a challenge to make SharePoint not look like SharePoint. But it's one of the most common requests from customers is to apply their identity and their brand to their SharePoint implementation. And with SharePoint online it's the same thing. It's still a web portal and so they still want to have their brand applied to it, but the constant changes and fast paced movement from Microsoft makes it a challenge, because they're needing to add it and make changes to the Master page, to add additional scriptographer, to add an additional content placeholders, things like that, to make sure that their new features they're releasing is coming to place. Which makes it a challenge for us as brand implementers because when they change a set of CSS classes, it's obviously not something that's set into our pieces and so we have to constantly stay on our toes to keep adopting the brand as new releases happen.

[7:18] Andrew: Cool, cool. So you’ve talked a little bit about the first release thing here. Randy, you wanna explain a little bit more like what this means what we've talked about, first release or flighted controls and stuff.

[7:28] Randy: Yes, certainly. It's interesting because they... that's sorta something that Microsoft gave us, you know, a button in 365 to hit and say "I wanna get the first release of things as they come out" and so at first glance you may think, ok well that's cool I can just set up my tenant to have that, but my production tenant want get those things and then that way I can prepare all my stuff and have it ready to go and not be sorta surprised but the reality of it is, not everything gets included in just the first release. Like if they do a hot fix or something like that it's gonna go out whether you have a first release or not. And so by understanding that like they wanna two week updates schedule and the only things that would be included in the first release or things that are in like the flighted controls, which if you look at seattle.master there's areas in it that have like flighted controls and that's where the new stuff comes out. It's still quite the challenge to keep up with these things and even with that, you know, you would need to have to go out an look download seattle.master all the time and see what's changed and things like that and so it could definitely be a big surprise as big parts of Master page change, maybe CSS classes, ID change, that kind of thing.

[8:41] Andrew: Cool, yeah. So you talk about these changes and stuff, I know that we got this big thing at the top in Office 365 that Microsoft likes to call the Suite bar, which... this all Suite thing it kinda cracks me up because it's one place they call the Suite bar yet everything is all tenant based and everything. So Jasper, you wanna talk a little bit about the Suite bar, what kinda challenges we have with this? 

[9:02] Jasper: Yeah, they call it Suite but I wouldn't give the name Suite because it doesn't always do sweet things. Probably the worst joke you ever heard.... for example, must have been like 2 months ago, we were working one of our customers and then we changed the color, I think from blue to black and what happened since is that like at least 2 or 3 times the color went back to blue. And then the customers look and “Hey, what's going on. I thought we made it black." And we're like "Well we didn't really knew this was gonna happen". So barely in the background there're changes been made we're not really aware of so it causes some issues. And also, what Randy kinda mentioned about, you know like you can use first release but it's still lotta stuff changing in the background without using the first release feature. I believe the Suite bar used to be i bit smaller but they made it wider and then, that kinda caused an issue with Site action bar that became totally black. I don't know have you guys saw that, it must have been a month and a half ago, two months ago. So that's also like really.... this is weird for end users doing their work and to of nothing that Site action bar is totally black and I think it took one or two days, I think Marc  saw that as well. So yeah, that makes it difficult for us to kind of... you know I understand that changes need to be done but it would be nice if could kinda know what's gonna come, so we know there's gonna be a change in the code so we know that color is gonna go back to blue, but then after it's been applied we have nearly 5 minutes later that can change back to black for example.

[10:29] Andrew: Yeah, it's funny you say that too. You brought up that one challenge that we had or one change where the Suite bar... when they got it a little bit thicker, taller or however you wanna say it and then that change, there was some cashing note or there's an issue with like, some CSS. A bunch of people saw that on Twitter, I know that Marc... there's a Yammer group that Office 365 and SharePoint MVP's are a member of. It's not a public group, it's a private group that we share with Microsoft for all the listeners. I know that Marc raised it at the beginning and then there was a bunch of people kinda chimed in, watching the reaction to that was really cool with Microsoft. Another time too where we saw the Suite bar was actually taking a very long time to load or relatively speaking, taking a very long time to load and they addressed it pretty quick here, but it is still a phase of where we're learning how to work better with them. Cathy, you wanted to jump in and say something.

[11:24] Cathy: Yeah, just to go through a little bit, one of the things that Microsoft has done to try to address some of this issues is they've now provided a tenant ability to theme that suite bar an so they released that about a month and a half ago now, where you could do that tenant wide and you could change the color and add your own logo into that Suite bar, of course it's never exactly what our customers are looking for, because next to your logo it's still puts a little "Powered by Office 365" logo next to it. And so they've released that and I myself published a blog post on it and then the very day I had publish on my blog post for how to do it and how it applies, they've released the idea of the new app launcher that's coming out, so that's one more change to the Suite bar and how that works in even just that two months period around features that have announced themselves.

[12:24] Andrew: Yeah, I guess when you talk about the thing that they just, that they add ability to theme the Suite bar about the month and a half ago, we're recording this in the middle of November 2014, so what would that be? November, October...sometime Septemberish time frame of 2014.

[12:38] Cathy: Right.

[12:38] Andrew: You know it's funny we said this.... I was talking to some of the people from Microsoft last week and made this analogy when we said during the podcast or during our failed recording last week. I don't want this to sound too harsh but it still feels like we're in this phase of almost like this weird kind of a war, where the external customer for Office 365, we're still trying to learn exactly how to work with Microsoft. Microsoft is trying to learn how to work with us and both sides... feels like we're in this battle and right now we finally have got to a bit of like the ceasefire where we're trying to figure out how do we move forward from this, so it's a little bit challenging here, I think we're still in that weird kinda of like toddler phase and trying to figure out how best to work with each other. Marc you got something you wanted to say around what Cathy was just saying too.

[13:25] Marc: Yeah, I think you're right about the war thing, I mean it's a friendly war in a sense but still there're some skirmishes going on. I think, you know, what's happening here is that the legacy of SharePoint being a developer platform is really catching up to us, you know? For quite a few versions now, we've been used to doing some very heavy lifting to make the UI do what we wanna do. And I think now that Microsoft is running this thing as a service and we're seeing how the service UI is evolving, we need to come up with new ways to work with it. And I think that they're hearing those messages loud and clear, at least in the conversations that I'm having with them. So this will evolve to a better place but it's gonna be a really uncomfortable I think for quite a while, because we're just not able to do the things that we're typically used to doing. It's not a developer platform as much as an user platform on Office 365. It's a service which.... all of this make sense and there're huge benefits to that, but it's a change for all of us. So we're gonna have to sort of learn how this can work. I think that in any suggestions we can give, you know, as a community, can give Microsoft about, you know, here is maybe a different way to think about theming or branding or, you now, UI enhancements. I know Cathy has some great ideas around this. It's gonna really change things and the nice thing is that they're really listening and they're trying to move really quickly, like they did with that with suite bar problem I've pointed out.

[14:51] Andrew: Yeah, it's interesting you've said that, I definitely wanna come back to what Cathy suggestion is. I really like Cathy's suggestion, it's something I definitely wanna talk about in just a few minutes here, but one thing that's interesting.... we haven't really talked about so much just yet. One of the reason that I see that we keep having these problems, you know, a lotta customers don't really understand why Microsoft is making changes to Office 365 that do seem to be, in one sense, fairly arbitrary but I think that, you know, let's talk a little bit about like why are they doing this. I think from one point of view what they’re doing is they’re trying to add new capabilities and features to Office 365, things like updated Suite bar, adding this thing called the app launcher to the Suite bar as well and if someone’s go and customize their master pages, then they can't get those kind of updates. The other changes that they’re having is that, you know, they’re coming to find that there are major... they've seen significant things with hosting SharePoint on their own. Office 365 in one sense is incredibly ironic and comical in sense that, you know, for so long they're been shipping SharePoint and telling us how to deploy it and how to manage it and stuff and then all of a sudden Microsoft has their turn to host and manage SharePoint and Office 365 and they're kinda looking around like "Holy crap, this is really hard". So it's kinda funny as you see this kinda come in and figuring this stuff out and so it's not, these changes that they're doing are not so much just arbitrary, there are things that they're doing to try to better the platform, but they are finding that, hey these thing that customers have done on-prem, they just don't work so much in multi tenant or hosted environment and also facilitating Microsoft with the ability to innovate that features in the way. Randy, you wanna jump in and say something?

[16:34] Randy: Yeah, I mean, I think you totally nailed it, right? I mean, it's hilarious, you know, Microsoft's now sorta having the eat their own dog food as far as hosting SharePoint and dealing with, you know, problem people like myself and Cathy etc. who go in there and change the UI and change how things work right? And so I think, like you said one of the big issues is the way that they had customized the UI of SharePoint was to go in and add it master pages and things like that. The funny thing is, like the Master page, like I always say, it's like the glue that holds the site together, but I mean it's literally got controls that got registered at the top, that bring all of the SharePoint functionality. And so when they wanna add new things like, they wanna add this app launcher or whatever, they don't really have a good way of injecting those things without, you know just updating the Master page and so like you've said, if you've done any customization to the Master page, it's like, let's say you've just copied seattle.master and just added a line for jQuery, then you're not gonna get these new updates that they're putting in there. And so I think, in some cases it might be you just don't get the update, in other cases it might be that your UI breaks and you have to go in and fix things. So I think, you know, in discussion about like your war concept, I definitely think there's sort of like, lines are starting to be drawn, where they say like, "We own the Suite bar, please don't mess with that", and then like it's up to us to sorta haggle over what things we can and can't sort of customize in the master page without breaking things.

[18:02] Andrew: Yeah, it's true. It's a bit of a challenge so... Ok, let's talk a little bit now, let's try and pivot this a little bit. Let's talk about like, we've got these challenges, we've kinda explained a little bit about some of the pains that we've had, so... Today, as much as we have liked, I know I've been on this side as well, we've all complained, we've all kind of figured out, explained to Microsoft, here's how you're hurting us and that kinda stuff. But, you know it is their ball and they're gonna do what they want with it and they are being very responsive to the community and trying to understand better about what they need to have done but then they're saying "Hey look, you gotta sit there and you gotta work with us too, there's thing that we have to do". So what kinds of things are you guys telling your customers? What are you doing specifically and what kinds of things are you telling your customers today when they say we want a custom branded SharePoint? Are you going and saying "No, I'm absolutely not gonna do that" or "Yes, I can do that"? Or, "Yes, I'm doing it but here are all the things that you need to consider and stuff may break and there's no warranty" or whatever. That's just an example. What are you guys doing with your customers today? Marc, I'll let you go first on this one.

[19:08] Marc: Sure. You know, I think what we're seeing with things like Delv I think that's sort of our first public view of where the UI is going in SharePoint or not SharePoint really, but Office 365. And I think that conversations I'm gonna have with clients going forward now that I've seen things like this railed experience that they have with Delv, that's a phrase that they're using, which I think is an odd one, but we're on the rails there, we can't go off the rails in the UI. So with these experiences that they're gonna be bringing like Delv and that's the only one like I said that we can see. We understand that we're not gonna have as much control over the UI, so I think the important thing is to have these good conversations with people who want to go to Office 365 now and say, you know this isn't really just SharePoint in the sky, this is a different service that you're signing up to, so you need to think about what UI customizations actually matter to your organization. It's a really tough discussion to have with the marketing person, because they want a lot of pixels to move around. But if you're going to Office 365 you might need to sort of back off a bit and do much lighter branding or if you need to do a heavy branding then back off on Office 365 all together and I know that Microsoft would love to hear me say that but... It's not right for everybody and UI now becomes a part of that decision process, it's not just about data sovereignty and, you know, functionality that you may or may not have by going to Office 365. The UI is also part of that sort of contract between the user and Microsoft, but they don't have as much control over as they do On-premises.

[20:48] Jasper: Yeah, I have to admit, when I was still doing a lot of On-premises projects, I always got a little bit terrified when a graphic design came back, it's like "Oh man". Especially the companies, they used to hire other graphical designers with no idea how SharePoint worked. It was always waiting for disaster though, but at least On-premises you had all the control in your hands because you had access to the server, you were controlling updates and it's just so different doing SharePoint online these days. Lately it really opened up my eyes, especially with all the releases being pushed through, and that's just, what Marc says, it's really a service and you waiting for the ride, and you have to give up a little bit of control and this is also where we have to really advise customers, saying like "Ok, you know, you can do your customization but keep in mind that can be changes coming ahead that kinda can affect this". So I always try to keep the customizations to a minimum, they always want to add logo and some colors, that's ok but try not to go, you know, too crazy, I don't want to sound negative because, especially with SharePoint online, you just don't know if change by Microsoft can affect all the.... Let's say you put a day's work in like, creating UX change or something and then next day an update is done and your work is kinda like messed up, it's such a shame though. 

[22:02] Randy: Yep, and it's funny because I think back like SharePoint conference earlier this year and you know Microsoft was ok with me kinda giving a message out there, that if people wanna do design manager and change their master page up and all this kinda stuff, it's all great for SharePoint online just like it is in the farm, but now if you look at kinda what they're saying, like if you look at the patterns and practices site, there's a PowerPoint that's release with that, where they kind of start suggesting that people not do custom Master pages for like basic team sites NSPO and if they're gonna do like an internet portal that they really consider it almost like a tax, where they need to think about you know, if I'm gonna make a custom master page for this, you know, I'm gonna have to go back in, in a month and maybe make changes and then again in another month and make changes and so, what I'm recommending to customers is that, you know, if they're doing basic team collaboration sites in SharePoint online, keep it simple, use composed looks, use themes, but if you wanna do something really custom branded, you know I'm recommending they go to On-prem in farm based install and if they kinda insist upon being in SharePoint online for that, they really need to have sorta the budgets and the time to understand that things are gonna be changing and they're gonna have to update stuff accordingly.

[23:19] Cathy: Yeah, I think with a lot of customers that I work with, they're already willing to sign up for that tax, as you just said Randy. They're being advised, one of the things I'm telling people is "Yes we can customize the look and feel of SharePoint online, but do understand that you're going to have customizations that are for a feature set based on a day that we finish the project. New features that get released will not be customized and you'll have to do continuous updates to get those through". It's just one of those things I kinda feel like, this change, you know, much like what AC was saying before, you know we are kinda in that stage of learning and growing, and I'm still kinda in toddler stage where I'm still learning what the meaning no, the word no means. To me the word no doesn't necessarily even though I've been told don't customize the Master page, doesn't necessarily mean don't customize the master page. It's just the matter of understanding what the challenges are and what the ramification are if you do decide to go down that customization road.

[24:26] Andrew: Yeah, it's challenging here, right? Because you know we've got, you've got the customers that want to do all these customizations and they've been, especially for people who have been in this space, who have been in the SharePoint space On-prem, going back and they've been, they're migrating to 365. I think that those people have the bigger challenge, because they are the ones that are been conditioned to say it's ok to do what you have been doing, but if you've got customers that are new coming in the 365, I guess it might be a bit easier to condition them. As you look at other hosted services, like a Salesforce or like CRM Online or something like that and customers don't really have so much of the challenge or the frustration around that. They are little more open to say "I am on this experience that is more on rails" and where Microsoft is providing experience you just kinda adapt to it. So we've done a good job here, I think explaining, you know, what the challenges have been and how we approached it today, I like what all of you said, where it's kinda the classic consulting experience, which is, you know, your job is not just to say yes and do whatever the customer wants but you also have, at least in my mind, you have a bit of responsibility in saying that educating the customer and giving them the most information an letting them choose the right path forward, but let's go back and let's talk a little bit about now, you know like going forward. We are where we are today, we have different recommendations we've just went through about how we're gonna deal with it, but going forward... I know that each of you have some different ideas and Cathy, you've got at least, apologies to everybody else, but I know that you've done the most work here and having a solid pitch and just saying, suggestion on how you guys should fix it with giving us still...we're giving up a lotta control as the customer, but we are working within the boundaries of what you, with what you give us and being a little bit more kinda realistic, or little bit more real world and just saying you know, "We'll work with you but you gotta give us this and here's a good suggestion". So why don't you talk a little bit about this suggestion that you've pitched and then maybe, after that we'll talk a little bit about reaction that you guys have got. 

[26:35] Cathy: Yes, for me, I've been kinda seeing the writing on the wall for a few months now and so, as I started doing that I definitely started thinking of different ways that we could achieve what we need to while giving Microsoft the control that they need. And so one of the things I've noticed is that I think a lot of us get the same requests for customizations from our customers a lot. Headers, footers, logos, custom alert areas, things like that and one of the primary reasons right now that we are customizing the master page is to add in those areas, and so the proposal that kind of I've put forward is that Microsoft maintain a set of customizations in Master page that are kind of fixed down and restricted for the use of developers and UX developers.  So, kind of putting together basically two different Master pages that they maintain, one that maybe got the responsive Bootstrap framework built into it, with the controls added around different navigation pieces and one that does not. And then also, as a part of that maintaining, just a simple set of blank content placeholders that are built into the Master page with a set ID, that then as the designers and developers we can then use JavaScript to target and inject those, that it allows Microsoft to make the script changes and the additional changes they need in the Master page, but for us to utilize those set areas that we can then put our information into it. And so it kinda gives us the control we need by giving them the control that they need at the same time.

[28:30] Andrew: It's a cool suggestion that you've got and so you're saying that we have using like blank content placeholders that we could go check stuff, but to be clear these are content placeholders that they would not put stuff in, only we would put it in, so that we're not overwriting any stuff that they're adding. If they have stuff that they wanna add in they use their own. Is that what you're saying?

[28:50] Cathy: Correct. It would just basically give us, you know, 6 to 8 content placeholders. I think there's probably 6 common branding areas that people ask for and then 2 that could be utilized further by developers for additional components, but giving us kind of like 6 to 8 blank content placeholders that have a set ID that is not changed, that Microsoft does not utilized. They are just blank content placeholders in a master page set a side for customizations and then Microsoft maintains control of the rest of the Master page, to add in their changes, the additional placeholders, their script references, whatever they need outside of those 8 content placeholders. 

[29:34] Andrew: I see. It's similar... I shouldn't say similar, but there is something that they have, that they've pitched in the PNP content. So for those who aren't familiar there's in GitHub, so github.com, there is an organization called OfficeDev, so github.com/OfficeDev/PnP as in Papa Nancy Papa. And in there, there is a sample that... they talk about part of provisioning some branding assets, using the client object model, it's very developer focused thing. They do have a package that does make it a little bit easier, where you can define it in XML file upload these files for you. To me, that's very less ideal in the way we wanna do customizations but kinda going along with Cathy was just suggesting. There is another one where they do demonstrate how you can use these things called user custom actions, which essentially allow you to inject a reference to a JavaScript file on the page. That's one of two ways that I think that they're recommending that we're doing branding today the downside to both of them is that you absolutely have to have developer involved, but it's not all that ideal if you just want to add JavaScript then you can do that today, but if you want to add additional things like that's where Cathy's placeholder idea would give you a little bit more control there. So Cathy you want to say something else about this real quick?

[30:58] Cathy: Yeah Andrew, that's exactly where this kind of evolved out of. I've been using JavaScript Injection to do different things like adding in analytics and custom alerts and pieces like that already, but the problem that I've run into is just a basic one, like being able to add in an alert that's pulling from something. You have to have the location in the page to display that and so that's where these placeholders coming to play is using that model that they're already suggesting, so JavaScript Injection kind of concept and then having something to targeted to that we can then use CSS to position and style all around it, so giving us somewhere to go and it really is pushing us towards, moving away from being a pure web designer, but into more of a developer role.

[31:52] Randy: You know, I really like Cathy's idea for two reasons. One, I like it because it sort of draws hard lines between the areas that Microsoft can mess with and the areas that, you know, we as designers cam mess with. I think that's really cool and I've also liked that it's realistic. I think that is something that we could actually get in next version of SharePoint. I like to think of things a little bit more radically, like I don't know why in this day and age we're still in there mocking around with Master pages and like ripping code in and out and that kind of thing. You know I think it's kinda bull shit in a way, I think in the next version they should rip all that out and just give us HTML5 type of thing, where we've just added HTML5 or HTML or whatever, and then we put in one line tokens that say bring in the nav, bring in the footer, bring in the search box etc. The idea is sorta like design manager only like don’t spit out a master page, just sort of do the things they need to do on the back-end to that. This would be kinda like a WordPress idea, right? And so if they had something like this then like templates and things like that can start to flourish and I think if they're really serious about having internet portals that are heavily branded and things like that, that is something they can look at. But being a realist I think that Cathy's idea is much more apps to be seen in the near future. I think that... but we could shoot our expectations higher and see if we get. Marc you deal with the JavaScript all the time, I remember back in the day you've challenged me to a branding contest, where you were always using JavaScript and I would always use master page and CSS and I never had the time for it, but maybe your ideas are winning out here. 

[33:29] Marc: I did it and I won.

[33:32] Randy: I didn't even show up.

[33:33] Marc: I think that there are.... all of these ideas are great ones and I think that the cool thing is... and I'm feeling very positive today as I texted in a chat window here. It's sort of a switch for me. But I think that Microsoft really is gonna listen to this stuff, and by adding all of these ideas together and we're not the only one, you know the people on this call are not the only ones who are gonna have good ideas about this. Taking all the great ideas that are out in the community and feeding them back into the product group. I think they're gonna come up with something that's gonna be better. We're gonna have to understand that it's not gonna be the old way. It's not gonna be just the Master pages and custom CSS and sort of the business as usual. The whole platform is gonna evolve into a better place and, you know, that's good. I mean Randy you’ve brought up WordPress, I mean I don't know how many clients I've had who just, who said to me "Why can't it just work like WordPress?"  or pick any other open source, framework that anyone’s ever heard of and they ask why it won’t work like that. SharePoint is been too hard to do this stuff and it's going to get easier in Office 365 and then the hopes of course is that, you know, the learning’s from the Cloud come back to On-premises and everybody's better of there too. So there are gonna be changes, there're gonna be big changes and we're gonna all have to along for the ride. 

[34:58] Andrew: Cool, yeah. Thanks Marc. And Jasper, you wanted to jump in and say something as well?

[35:04] Jasper: Yeah, sorry. I'm here back again. Thanks Randy.

[35:10] Andrew: Those were deep thoughts.

[35:11] Jasper: It's getting late here.

[35:13] Andrew: Deep thoughts by Jasper.

[35:16] Jasper: Deep thoughts, yeah. And I made a great job again and nobody hear it, so...

[35:18] Andrew: We were all laughing on the inside.

[35:20] Jasper: Yeah, I was laughing a lot here but nobody heard. I was saying actually there's a lot of deaf talk here, so I was kinda zoning out, but I do like the idea though. This basically for me and my role.... I just wish stuff would be a little bit easier. So what Marc says like, people always say, why can't you just move this web part zone to the left, move it to right or why can't I put this object here and there? It's not just that easy, like the most customers don’t realize that you have to, you know, go into code and open up the SharePoint designer and make page layout, then move everything around. So I just hope eventually we get like sort of assistant that makes that a little bit easier, especially for people like me or not that technical code wise. So I think we would benefit from it because we can help the customers better and then the customers will also benefit from it, because they can get what they want. So that makes sense a little bit, but... I do like the idea though, what Cathy suggested.

[36:18] Cathy: Yeah, I think for me one of the things that I've struggled with myself and how to convey this message to my customers and one of the reasons I've... I've spent a couple of months trying to think of this idea and I've actually worked on trying to test it to see if it's feasible, because I know myself. I do a comparison of seattle.master and SharePoint online weekly, to find out the differences and there are differences all the time in it. But for me, the problem that I've run into is that, you know, for years with SharePoint and the way it's been marketed and put out at the customers is, you know, they showed them that bright shine example of ferrari.com, right? And look what you can do, and look how custom you can make it and I can really look like you and then all of a sudden  with SharePoint online now it's a service and, you know, it's different and we need to adjust the way, the communication the method happens that message goes out to the customers, but at the same time, for years, I know myself, I've been involved with SharePoint since 2003 version and even back then we were customizing the look and feel of it. So then all of the sudden say no customizations, is a very bitter and hard pill to swallow. And so that’s one of the reasons why I've tried to think of this idea of to how we could kinda balance, give us better of both worlds, you know? Each of us get something that gets us a step closer to customization but also, you know, still allows Microsoft the control that they need as they continue to learn how to deliver this product as a service.

[38:02] Andrew: You know it's funny you said. I didn't realize that you were going back to SharePoint 2003. I remember, that's when I got into it. And I was... actually Heather Solomon who’s another designer in the SharePoint space. The two of us used to work together on the same team and I remember when we rebranded our corporate portal and I think that I had something like over a 1000 files, for some reason 1200 files sticks in my head that we had to roll out, because at the time there was no such thing as master page.

[38:28] Cathy: Right.

[38:29] Andrew: Oh my God. That was incredibly challenging and right after we did the branding, corporate communications had a new brand for the entire company, because we split off as a separate company... It was cool because we knew it was coming and we kinda showed that, you know... Heather did a phenomenal job where it was... I rolled out the brand and then we went live at the portal and then they came up with the new brand like a week later and then we shipped it out again. It was a questionable business decision by management, they said they wanted to roll the portal out and rebrand it two weeks after we've rolled it out. After the first roll up it was already massive restrictor of the site, so I feel for our customers but we did a great job and brand it just fine, so... Cool. Let me ask you guys something then... You know, I get the sense I kinda server roll here, I understand, I know my place. I'm more of developer side and I know my place and I don't try and jump in and say and assume I understand what's going on in the UX side or the challenges you get through and into, I understand them but I definitely don't wanna try them. I'm speaking like an expert here but let me ask you guys. From my perception, I think that it was early in 2014 up until the maybe the first half of the year in 2014, there was a lotta frustration from the customer and consumer side of 365 from the changes Microsoft was making. Would that be fair to say?

[39:50] Randy: I think so.

[39:50] Cathy: Yes.

[39:51] Andrew: Ok, so we've gone from there and then now I get the sense that, not just from what we're saying in this episode today, but also in just the wider community that thing are little bit more... we have a little bit more positive outlook or at least we don't feel as frustrated. There's a little bit more understanding from the customer side and from the Microsoft side. Would you say that's a fair characterization of where we are today?

[40:15] Jasper: Yeah definitely. At least I have the feeling that they're listening to us as well, so...

[40:20] Andrew: Yeah. I do feel better that we're getting a better spot today. I do feel a lot more comfortable too with the fact that... I feel like we almost have a champion on the Microsoft side. A guy by the name of Steve Walker, which I don't think that... all of our listeners may not be familiar with but Steve is... He's been in this space for a very, very long time and I personally I'm very, very pleased to see him stepping up and really champion.... He does a very good job of pitching or staying in the.... from the Microsoft side and saying, look here's what we need to do and how you guys need to work with us but then he's also taking a lot of time to better understand the challenges that the customers have had and trying to figure out the best way for everybody to work together. But doing it very much for the Microsoft side but it's.... He seems to really listen a lot and do a lotta really good action, getting things fixed. For those who don't know, the things that we've raised or there on the call where community raise issues about the Suite bar both in that fact that some of the rendering was all screwed up and then another part where the rendering was very slow. Steve was the guy on the Microsoft side that basically lit the fires and made the bomb fires to get sheets fixed really fast honestly. So it's nice to kinda have that champion on that side.

[41:35] Randy: Yeah, I think Steve is a great guy and I think if you look it like the patterns and practices thing like apparently he went too bad for us to get like alternate CSS added as something that we can control with client site code. He went too bad and said, look people are going out there and customizing master pages just to put these stuff in there. You know, let's add something in there so they can do without customizing the master page and boom there it is, like released out there. So I think he's really out there making a difference. He understands that it can't just be, you know, a canned piece of software when we're talking about enterprise internet type situations.

[42:10] Andrew: Yeah, cool. I agree, make sure that everybody is aware too, that stuff that's in PNP that is stuff that Microsoft engineering and marketing is gonna stay behind it and say we support you doing this, everything that's in PNP they have reviewed it with engineering. Engineering has said, you know, yes we bless this, if they say no, then there is a big debate on inside about how they should fix that or how should they better deal with it. And I know that there are even things that, you know, that are not in PNP that are still churning in the background but they're still trying to figure out, look they need this and we can't give them this right now. What kinda guiding should we give them? So they are working towards that kinda stuff. Marc, you've had something you wanted to throw in here before we start to wrap up the show.

[42:52] Marc: I just wanted to make one quick comment. I think that the frustrations early in the year versus the less frustrations now and I can't say that everybody’s less frustrated but it's really around communication as little to do with the technology itself,, it's about understanding that there's a dialog that can actually happen where we all can work together to make it better. Some of the examples that you gave were excellent ones, you know, Steve jumped on something and actually did something immediately about it. We’re able to have these conversations, they understand better now what it..... When they do things, how it impacts us. And they learning that as we go, so part of our job is to let them now, you know, when you did this, this is what happen to us. And we're trying to funnel that from all of the feedback that we get through our MVP channels, but I think if anyone else has channels that they can use to sorta get that news back to Microsoft, we really are listening and they wanna help us out.

[43:48] Andrew: I totally agree, totally agree. That's a really good observation, it really is about the communication channel and having these discussions going back and forth. That’s the part that, that's the real reason I'm calling out Steve, because Steve is the one that I feel has been the voice, has been the target and has been the voice on both sides for all of this. We can't go into the details of it because I know there’s a bunch of NDA stuff that's wrapped up in a bow, stuff that we did last week at MVP summit, I know that we did have a really good discussion with Steve as a bigger group in the room about understanding stuff. He's very good about, very blunt about where they are and what they need to be able to do with it and then, you know, but also very responsive to feedback. So, thank you guys very much for jumping in on this, I think we had a really good discussion here. We've gone about almost 50 minutes now, which is phenomenal. I know we only went, I think 18 in our last recording. This is much, much better. For all of you that are listening, I know you probably hear a little bit typing in the background and stuff, that's because we can't see each other, we're all on Skype recording this and we tried to do the video where we could do pitch at each other, make sure there wasn't a lot of talking over each other and that didn't work so well, but thankfully on the technical side everything did kinda get together. We did loose Marc for a few minutes, but we lost Marc but only in spirit, for just a moment, he was still always with us.

[45:03] Jasper: He's probably in the show next week again anyway, right? 

[45:08] Andrew: Yeah, cool. Right, Jasper. So, let's go.... One more thing to kinda ask you guys then, as we wrap this up. Thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to do this but let me ask you something that... Chris and I, CJ and I started doing something recently about where we pick the biggest links or things that are important to us today or just a cool thing. Could be a book, could be a movie, could be something technical or whatever. So let me run around the horn, let me get you guys throw out, you know whatever you wanna do and then you gotta make sure you send me the link afterwards, so I can put it in the show notes. Ladies first. Let me go ahead and start with Cathy. Cathy, do you have something you wanna share, what's kinda cool to you right now?

[45:46] Cathy: That's such a tough one. I think for me one of the things I've been looking at lately is, I have such a wide variety of hobbies. One of my hobbies that I've been... since I've been home this week, I'm a quilter. i think that comes from part of my art school background. I like to mix colors together and so I started my newest guilt project this week and so that's kinda where I am as kinda moving down that path. A little bit of playing with color in a different sense.

[46:17] Andrew: That's cool. It's nice to do stuff in the physical space, not so the technical space. I've always complained to my parents they asking "What did you do today, kid? Can you show me?" and it's like I'm so sick of having to pull out the laptop and show you. Funny, my neighbors were like “Why don't you have a lawn service?". Because it's the only thing that I can do, that I can the result of what I did.

[46:36] Cathy: Yeah, exactly. Things are very rewarding that way.

[46:39] Andrew: Yeah. Jasper how about you? Pick what you've picked this week.

[46:42] Jasper: No quilting here, but.... I watched the trailer again for the "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and I just love it so much. It's like super geeky but it's like so fanny because..... I think they've released a new one where they have a little bit more.... I think the Tony Stark's house they’re trying to pick up towards hammer and I'm like, this is so much fun and  I wanna show it to my wife and I already know she's not gonna like it. She just doesn't care. She's like "Yeah, I'll watch it with you, but I'm just not as excited as you are". So I'm always the only one in the house who's really pumped or like watch these new comic booth trailers. I hope when my daughter grows up, she is a little bit geeky in a ways so she can watch it with me as well, so... That's kinda my pick.

[47:28] Andrew: That was funny. I was a little selfish and hoping that both my kids had an interest in Lego and thankfully they both have tremendous interest in Lego. Although I can say I never played with the pink Lego’s when I was a kid, do it more as adult with my 5 year old daughter, but yeah, that's a good one. Randy, how about you?

[47:44] Randy: Yeah, I mean my obsession is the same as it was during our lost tapes from last week and that's the hearing that "Twin Peaks" is coming out on Showtime in like 2016, I've been kinda going back and watching all the old ones. And, you know, I just can't believe that this was a popular phenomenon in the 90s. I think it may have to do with there only be in like 3 TV channels, it's like a weird twist on like soap opera, but also like super dark with like fever dreams of backwards talking and things like this. I love it though, I think everybody should go out and watch it. It's great, it's on Netflix.

[48:20] Andrew: Really good, that's really good. How about you Marc? 

[48:23] Marc: I don't know what you guys are all talking about this real life.... everything about SharePoint and code and things like that. I mean, I'm very confused.

[48:34] Jasper: Nerd alert.

[48:35] Marc: My answer is gonna be the same as it was before actually, when we lost our recording too. I wanna look into, and you guys have to tell me which one it is again. I wanna look in to Less and, or Sass. Which one is the one I'm suppose to do?

[48:50] Jasper: Sass.

[48:50] Randy: Sass is newer.

[48:51] Marc: Sass ok. I'm gonna be looking into Sass and that's SASS in case you've used all the other software products that have that sound to them. It helps with sort of variable driven CSS which I think it sounds so cool. I actually invented it a five years ago but never worked so I guess I lose.

[49:11] Andrew: If it wasn’t on Hacker News it didn't happened. No I'm just kidding.

[49:13] Randy: It's free anyway, you wouldn't made any money on it.

[49:17] Marc: I make unbelievable amounts of money giving away free software though.

[49:21] Randy: There you go.

[49:22] Andrew: Marc's SP services is got a phenomenal warranty of money back planned to ot.

[49:26] Randy: It does.

[49:27] Andrew: You don't like it, he'll send you everything back that you paid for.

[49:29] Randy: Unless 365 broken, then he doesn't wanna hear about it.

[49:32] Marc: I don't even make you pay the shipping charges which I think is very fair.

[49:40] Andrew: That's awesome. I think that my link this week is gonna have to be the thing that dragged my co-host away Chris Johnson which is the open sourcing of .NET. I've gotta texts like within about 10 minutes of our, of us mostly sit down and record this and he's like hey can you do the show solo today, there are stuff, it's crazy today with the open sourcing of .NET and giving Visual studio away, the small teams etc. So people are interested by now, I think that probably the internet tubes have calm down a bit and we get this Scott Hanselman's blog about an hour and a half ago, just getting overloaded with stuff that he had published. Guys thank you very much, Cathy, Marc, Randy, Jasper, I really appreciate you guys taking time again, to sit down with me and talk about this. I know this time is in the comfort of our homes or our works but this time we've got a lot more out of this episode, so hopefully our listeners got a lot out of this as well and definitely again, I appreciate your time and all of your insight and your experience that you shared today. 

[50:38] Jasper: I really hope you pressed a record button Andrew.

[50:40] Cathy: Thank you.

[50:42] Randy: Don't screw this up buddy.

[50:43] Andrew: I've been watching. It shows that is been recording the whole time, so... I'm crossing my fingers here, we should be good. Alright, cool. Thanks a lot guys, I'll talk to you soon.

[50:51] Jasper: Thank you. Bye bye.

[50:52] Cathy: Thanks. 

[50:53] Andrew: If you have a question for us go to microsoftcloudshow.com/questions where you can submit it as .txt or record it as a .wav for an mp3 and provide a link so that we can play your question on the show. You can subscribe to us in iTunes by searching for the Microsoft Cloud Show or via [email protected] where you'll also find a full transcript and show notes of each episode. You can also find us on Facebook searching for Microsoft Cloud Show or on Twitter @mscloudshow. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.